Benchmarks ended little changed on Friday following weaker-than-expected jobs data and apprehensions over American action on Syria. Stocks began Friday’s trading session higher after dismal non-farm payroll numbers eased some doubt about the Federal Reserve’s trimming its bond buying program. But benchmarks dropped near session lows after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia will continue to sell arms to Syria if there is any military attack on that country. On the other hand, the unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level in more than four years. Utilities sector was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups. The consumer discretionary and the materials stocks suffered maximum losses.
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) lost 0.1% to close the day at 14922.5. The S&P 500 added 0.01% to finish Friday’s trading session at 1655.17. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index increased 0.03% to end at 3660.01. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) increased 0.5% to settle at 15.85. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were roughly 5.84 billion shares, below 2013’s average of 6.25 billion shares. Advancing stocks outnumbered the decliners. For 60% shares that advanced, only 37% declined.
The Dow Jones gained 0.8%, the S&P 500 climbed 1.4% and the Nasdaq added 2.0%, over the previous week. The blue-chip index broke its four-week losing streak. Previous week’s gains were boosted by encouraging auto sales numbers, initial claims and service sector data as well as ADP’s National Employment Report. But Friday’s non-farm payroll numbers disappointed investors.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported non-farm payroll numbers. According to the report, U.S. employers hired 169,000 employees in the month of August. This was below the consensus estimate of 179,000. Employment increased in retail trade and health care but dropped in information. Employment in other industries like mining and logging, construction, transportation and ware housing revealed little changes. The unemployment rate dropped to 7.3%, its lowest level since December 2006.
Going further into the details of non-farm payroll numbers jobs numbers, retail trade jobs increased by 44,000. The health care sector added 33,000 more jobs. The professional and business services, food services and drinking places and wholesale trade hired 23,000, 21,000 and 8,000 more employees respectively. Non-farm payroll numbers will be the focal point of discussion among Federal Reserve’s policy makers when they meet on September 17 and 18. There has been wide speculation that the central bank will trim its bond buying program in its next meeting. Kansas City Fed President Esther George said the Fed should reduce $85 billion bond buying program to $70 billion per month beginning later this month.
Markets are also taking a hit because of ongoing tensions between America and Syria. Investor apprehensions increased after Russia President Vladimir Putin said Russia will support Syria if it is attacked. He added: “We're helping them now. We are supplying arms, cooperating in the economic sphere.”
The utilities sector was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups and the Utilities SPDR (XLU) gained 0.7%. Stocks such as Duke Energy Corp (NYSE:DUK), the Southern Company (NYSE:SO), Dominion Resources, Inc. (NYSE:D), NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE) and NRG Energy Inc. (NYSE:NRG) added 1.0%, 0.9%, 0.03%, 0.1% and 1.3%, respectively.
The consumer discretionary sector had a bad day and the Consumer Discretionary SPDR (XLY) lost 0.1%. Stocks such as the Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD), CBS Corporation (NYSE:CBS), Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX), Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Lowe's Companies, Inc. (NYSE:LOW) slipped 0.4%, 0.4%, 0.2%, 0.1% and 0.6&, respectively.